Predictive Factors of Secondary Traumatic Stress for Social Workers



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University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work


Since the 1980s, when trauma researchers studied victims of disaster, Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) has emerged as a growing issue in social work practice settings (Figley, 1983). Figley (1999) defines STS as “the natural consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowing about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other and resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person” (p.10). Social workers who interact with traumatized populations (defined as any population that has experienced such trauma as violence, crime, natural disaster, or war) are strongly vulnerable to STS (Canfield, 2005; Ochberg, 1988). Working with traumatized clients not only challenges the emotional balance of social workers, but also makes them more vulnerable to overwhelming anger and/or sadness (Herman, 1992).



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